How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice by Austen Ivereigh

How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button IssuesHow to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues by Austen Ivereigh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that every Catholic should read.

The reason I say that becomes abundantly apparent in the subhead: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues.

We know how it feels, finding yourself suddenly appointed the spokesman for the Catholic Church while you’re standing at a photocopier, swigging a drink at the bar, or when a group of folks suddenly freezes, and all eyes fix on you.

“You’re a Catholic, aren’t you?” someone says.

“Um, yes,” you confess, looking nervously at what now seems to resemble a lynch mob.

The pope has been reported as saying something totally outrageous. Or the issue of AIDS and condoms has come up. Or the discussion has urned to gay marriage. And here you are, called on to defend the Catholic Church by virtue of your baptism, feeling as equipped for that task as Daniel in the den of lions.

Yes, we’ve all been there.

Or perhaps you are a Catholic who does not feel called to defend the faith but is one of the crowd waiting, wanting, a good explanation for whatever issue has been raised.

Either way, this book is here to help.

The introduction lays out the vital need for good, civil communication that sheds light but not heat. This is followed by nine chapters that discuss challenging questions which seem to get on everyone’s nerves, such as the Church speaking up about politics, assisted suicide, clerical sex abuse, or defending the unborn. Austen Ivereigh discusses the overall context for each issue, the positive intention behind challenging questions, the Church’s historical and current positions, and more. This is all with the goal of helping us be more knowledgable and know how to reframe issues so that there is a chance of being a positive voice for the Church.

Why the Church Opposes Euthanasia

In common with a long-standing tradition of western civilization, the Church believes that dying naturally is a vital part of life’s journey, in many ways the most meaningful part. Dying can be described as a process of healing. Important things happen on that journey, and suffering and pain are often a part of it. As Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo … said: “Compassion isn’t to say, ‘Here’s a pill.’ It’s to show people the ways we can assist you, up until the time the Lord calls you.”

Dying, then, is a highly meaningful gradual process of renunciation and surrender. Although some die swifty and painlessly, very often the pattern of dying involves great suffering, because (and this is true of old age in general) it involves letting go of those thing which in our lives we believe make us worthwhile and lovable: our looks, intelligence, abilities, and capabilities. This is what the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called “necessary suffering,” the suffering endured by the ego, which protests at having to change and surrender. The idea that this kind of suffering is part of growth is not a uniquely “religious” view, although Christianity — with the Cross and the Resurrection at its heart — has perhaps a richer theological understanding than most secular outlooks.

The above excerpt is not the whole argument or rationale by any means. However, it was so well put for what I knew instinctively but had never had to articulate. It is one of the reasons I may wind up reading and rereading this book … not only to absorb the points for the sake of discussion but for my own soul’s sake.

Above all Ivereigh reminds us that where there is no trust, there can be no understanding or true conversation. To that end, he ends with ten points which should frame our mindset. These are the points that have stuck with me the most. I can’t tell you the number of times in simply dealing with difficult situations daily that I have remembered to “shed light, not heat” and to “look for the positive intention behind the criticism.” This doesn’t mean not speaking up for the truth, but it does remind us that the goal is not always “to win.”

I mentioned above that I thought every Catholic should read this book. I would go farther and venture to say that if you are curious about how the Church can justify a position you don’t agree with, then this book is for you. That is how impressed I was by Ivereigh’s even-handed, civil discussion of the positive motives of both sides of conversations on contentious issues. You may not wind up agreeing with the Church, but you will definitely see that there is a reasonable, logical context for her position.

I am very grateful to The Catholic Company for my review copy of this book. This is my honest opinion, no matter what the source of the book. You know how it is. That’s how I roll.


This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papalYear of Faith.

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  • BillYeager

    “How to defend the faith without raising your voice”? Well my experience, in wanting to question or debate particular RC Dogma on the ‘Catholic-Answers’ forum, which also has as it’s tag-line “To Explain & Defend The Faith”, is that the preferred option is to simply declare most of the ‘Hot-Button’ discussion issues taboo and to summarily ban any member who attempts to do so. Hardly an honest stance now, is it?

  • B-Lar

    “…resembling a lynch mob.”
    Perception error. Before you begin your apologistics, you should recognise that being criticised is not the same as being strung up because of irrational prejudice. I have less sympathy for catholics when they get defensive like this. How can you hold or defend opinions which are abhorrent to people without them being disgusted? You want people to pretend that they don’t know about the CENTURIES of abuse? You want people to pretend that this has no bearing on the morality of Catholics? You want to compare these people to the lynch mobs of old WHERE CATHOLICS SOUGHT OUT AND BURNED HERETICS? YOU WANT TO DO THAT WITHOUT A TRACE OF IRONY?
    What you are seeing is Catholicism getting the respect it deserves, and until the church resolve the problems that are painfully apparent to anyone who is not part of it, you will experience no relief.
    You bought the ticket. You take the ride.

    • Iglesia Viva

      don’t worry, I will pray for you.

      • B-Lar

        Please don’t. Facetiously offering to pray for someone does not give you the moral high-ground. It makes you look impotent and foolish.

        You failed to engage with any of my points, and you have maintained this self righteous aloofness which stops you from being able to participate in the wider conversation without being ridiculed. You do not deserve to be taken seriously with comments like this.

        Besides, even if your prayers had any impact on the world other than to make you feel smug, they would be better directed at the millions of people who struggle to make it through the day. Why not pray for clean water, education and economic stability? Is it too much for your god?

  • gimpi1

    I think learning to share your views without attacking people with other views is a good thing. However, the best thing would be to be able to listen to those opposing views before offering your views.

    Do people have a point about euthanasia? Should the Church’s view be enshrined in law? If they don’t believe that they need to suffer as a part of their “journey,” should they be compelled to? These points are valid, and listening to them, before explaining your own ideas could be a valuable part of your own journey.

    Also, B-Lar has a point about history. Personally, I would take the Catholic Church’s views on morality more seriously if they seemed serious about making amends for some of their crimes. I’m not just talking about the recent priest-abuse scandals. The point about heresy and witch trials is valid. Dose the author understand that a group that actually tortured people to death for minor disagreements in belief has some spade-work to do before it can be taken seriously as an arbitrator of morality?